Keep or Cut: Wayne Ellington and Maurice Harkless
Last week I began this "Keep or Cut" series by taking a look at the Knicks' two-way players, Kadeem Allen and Kenny Wooten. This week, I'll take a gander at two of the Knicks' veterans: Wayne Ellington and Maurice Harkless.
Ellington was a curious case this year. He was signed by the Knicks last offseason to a two-year, $16 million contract with only $1 million guaranteed for the second year (essentially a team option). He, along with Reggie Bullock and Marcus Morris, was supposed to be a consistent shooting threat for the Knicks from the outside, something they haven't had since... Steve Novak? It's been a while since the Knicks had a player that you could even call close to a sure thing from outside.
Instead of offering that steady presence, however, Ellington spent most of the year alternating hot and cold stretches. Look at his stats by month, per Basketball-Reference:
Pretty inconsistent! Granted, his minutes also fluctuated (along with basically every other non-starter on the Knicks) but it was sort of easy to understand why Ellington wasn't able to come by more minutes.
The Knicks were Ellington's ninth team in 11 NBA seasons, and he put up his worst overall field goal percentage of his career (35.1%) and worst 3-point percentage since his third year in the league (35%). It might be kind of blunt to say, but Ellington should probably find his 10th team in 12 years next year. The Knicks will have three new draft picks coming in, at least one of which is likely to be a guard/wing who should be getting minutes over Ellington.
Keep or cut: Cut. If some team wants to bank on his production and thinks one year at $8 million is a fair salary, pick up his option and trade him for a heavily protected second rounder. Otherwise, let him go.
Moe Harkless... poor guy. He was playing for a title contender in the Clippers and actually getting pretty consistent minutes, and then one day... poof, welcome to the Knicks, buddy.
Harkless of course came over as part of the Marcus Morris trade, essentially the $10 million salary vehicle to match Morris' $15 million in trade and attach a first- and second-round pick to. That trade, depending on how things shake down with the COVID-19 situation, looks pretty golden for the Knicks right now.
But Harkless' fit with the team was strange right from the start. He gave all the right answers to the press, but always seemed kind of irritated to be playing for such a crummy team after coming from a team with legitimate title hopes. And who could blame him?
Similar to Ellington, it's probably time for a change of scenery for Harkless. In this case, it's not really a move for the Knicks so much as a move for Harkless — if the Knicks could sign him for something like one year at $5 million, then sure. Harkless is young-ish at 27 by next season, and he's shot 34.5% from deep his last three seasons.
But Harkless will probably want to chase a title again. Once you've had a taste of winning, you don't usually come back to a team like the Knicks when you're in the prime of your career. And the Knicks shouldn't care enough to pay him the exorbitant amount it'd take to make him stay when they have Kevin Knox and Ignas Brazdeikis waiting in the wings to take his minutes.
Keep or cut: Cut, for both his sake and the Knicks'. Have fun somewhere else, Moe.